The Beadles, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
October 21, 2007
When I encountered Jack Bullard of Louisville, Kentucky, in the Huntsville library several years ago and offered to help him with research of his local heritage, it began a genealogical journey of surprises. One of the more intriguing connections of his ancestry was Abraham Beadle, an uncle of Jack’s great-grandfather Thomas Beadle. Thomas was a sheriff living in Triana in 1856, according to descendant Margaret Lowe of Florence. Thomas’ wife was Ann Eliza Brewer. Thomas was listed as executor of Abraham Beadle’s 1856 will, but Abraham’s widow successfully contested the provisions of the will in 1858, since her use of the land was allowed only during her lifetime.
Abraham apparently intended to prohibit his widow Nancy from passing his properties out of the family, especially if she remarried. He stipulated that his nephew Thomas, along with other relatives, would inherit the properties after Nancy’s death. Abe’s record with marriage provides clues to his reasoning. He was born in Virginia in 1777. In 1804 he married a woman named Letitia, and they moved to Madison County by 1816, living on what became arsenal lands. In 1823, at the age of 46, Abe filed for divorce (a matter for the state legislature at that time) from Letitia, stating that she had run off with Thomas Roberts to Fayetteville, Tennessee. In 1826 Abe married Susan Grimes in Madison County, and in 1849 he married Nancy Graham, who became his widow in 1858. Nancy was 17 and Abe was 72 at the time of their marriage. She no doubt seized an opportunity to gain security by wedding an elderly affluent man with no children. In a sense, she became a local forerunner of Anna Nicole Smith.
When Abe made out his will 7 years after the marriage, he allowed Nancy to keep possession of all of his property during her lifetime, so long as she remained single. Upon her death the estate was to pass to his nephews and nieces, who lived in Madison County and in Tennessee. If Nancy remarried, the will allowed her to possess and utilize almost all of the estate until her decease. In that eventuality, Abe’s nephews Thomas and Abraham Beadle were to get all but two of the slaves immediately. Still, all of the estate was to pass back to the nephews and nieces upon Nancy’s death, even after remarriage.
Complications arose when Nancy contested the provisions of the will and acquired a full 50% as “widow’s dower” without the control of Abe’s nephew Thomas as executor. Soon afterward she remarried to neighbor John Jordan, who was about her own age. John and Nancy then sold her dower lands to neighbor Ezekiel Matkin, of the family for whom Madkin Mountain is named on the arsenal. The sale was contested by Abe’s nephew Abraham in 1870. Nancy and John Jordan purchased the land at the resultant court-ordered public auction, owning it again. Nancy died in 1879, and John Jordan married Sarah Eliza Beadle. Sarah was a daughter of Abe’s nephew Thomas. Therefore, Sarah’s husband had been the second husband of the young widow of Sarah’s father’s elderly uncle.
These family connections related to the town of Madison at the time and in later generations. The Beadles, Brewers, and Jordans all had family members who lived in the immediate Madison area. In fact, probate papers show that Abe himself did business in 1856-7 with the Madison firm of Trotman & Nance, and he and his family were treated several times by Dr. Isaac F. Deloney of Madison in 1857. Ferdinand Trotman of Madison had three wives, the second being Mary Alice Beadle, another daughter of Thomas and Ann Beadle. A third daughter of Thomas Beadle, Ada, married Madison resident William F. Garner. More details of the extensive interconnections of these local families can be found in the 1998 book, “The Heritage of Madison County, Alabama”. Another excellent source of information is the 1999 book “Bullard Family and Related Families of Beadle, Jordan, Stover, Thornton, and Nelson” that Jack Bullard compiled and donated to the Huntsville library, kept in the Heritage Room.